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Now that the Skydance deal is (nearly) done, what happens to Paramount+?

Paramount Plus as seen on a TV.
Phil Nickinson / Digital Trends

You’ll be forgiven if you haven’t diligently followed the saga that has been the sale of Paramount to … well, to whomever could finally get a deal done. It’s been a long process with more than its share of parallels to the HBO drama Succession, including multiple shareholder classes, multiple parent companies, and a multitude of personalities at the top of the food chain.

The end result? After months of shopping around, and months of negotiations, Paramount Global and Skydance Media plan to merge. (The deal isn’t 100% done; there’s a 45-day “go-shop” period in which Paramount can field better offers.) The two companies are hardly strangers, of course. Paramount has been around in one form or another for more than 100 years. Skydance is merely in its 20s, but it’s the studio behind such hits as the latter Mission: Impossible movies, two Star Trek films, and, of course, Top Gun: Maverick, among many others.

One big question coming out of the merger, though, is this: What’s going to happen to Paramount+? The streaming service already has undergone one major renovation after ViacomCBS rebranded to Paramount, and CBS All Access rebranded to Paramount+.

The short answer is that we don’t really know just yet. But judging from a July 8 conference call, it doesn’t sound like Paramount+ is going anywhere anytime soon, though there’s going to be some serious work done under the hood.

“Our intention is to rebuild the Paramount+ platform,” David Ellison, founder and CEO of Skydance, said on the conference call. “And (we) believe that with the technological powers and relationships that we have, we can expand our [direct-to-consumer] business.”

Direct-to-consumer, or DTC, basically is industry speak for any sort of subscription service. If you can sign up directly, without going through some other provider first, that’s DTC. And that sort of thing requires a huge amount of work behind the scenes (as we recently learned in a sit-down with an Amazon Prime Video exec).

Ellison quickly got into the weeds: “We can improve our algorithmic [recommendation] engine to basically increase time spent on platform, reduce churn, and drive lifetime value for all of our shareholders,” he continued. “We can optimize the ad tech and improve the biocide for transparency and audience reach. And we also intend to unify the cloud providers across all the distribution services for significant efficiencies.”

That’s all important stuff for any streaming service, and certainly a sign that Paramount+ will be around for a while.

The Paramount Plus menu.
Phil Nickinson / Digital Trends

Morgan Stanley’s Benjamin Swinburne, during the Q&A, pointed out that Skydance had resisted doing its own streaming service and wondered if the idea of “getting out of the DTC business” was on the table post-merger.

“I think we all know, obviously, streaming is an incredibly important part of the business, and very much the future of the business,” Ellison said.

And that future may well include even bigger streaming bundles than we have today.

“Everybody here on this call probably watches television,” said Jeff Shell, chairman of sports and media at RedBird Capital, which has a big stake in Skydance. He’s also the former CEO of NBCUniversal. “The experience right now is not great. If you have all these streaming services, you want to watch something, you don’t know if you get it. You have to try to remember where it is. For most consumers, it’s pretty expensive.”

The way forward, Shell mused, may well look more like what many point out resembles the days of the cable bundle.

“I personally think, eventually, the streaming world is going to look very similar to the way that the multi-channel world looked in the past,” he said. Where you’re going to have a number of services. And for a consumer, they’re going to have favorite brands. But they’re going to want a one-stop shop with a nice [electronic programming guide], and a nice technological way to find what they want to look for. And if you’re in that bundle, you’re gonna win. And if you’re not in that bundle, you’re in real trouble.”

And Ellison was even more unequivocal following the conference call in a podcast appearance on The Town with Matthew Belloni.

“On the tech platform side,” he said, “there is a significant amount of things we can do to build Paramount+ into a truly differentiated technology platform. That is a priority and focus for us. It’s not shutting down or exiting that space.”

So expect Paramount+ to be around for a good, long while. Expect more content. Expect more bundles. But as for what that means for your wallet? Stay tuned.

Phil Nickinson
Phil spent the 2000s making newspapers with the Pensacola (Fla.) News Journal, the 2010s with Android Central and then the…
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